Karan Acharya, the man behind the viral Hanuman vector, wants to copyright the image
On rear glasses and windshields, on bike headlight covers, and even T-shirts and social media profiles now — a vector image of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman in saffron, with his brows furrowed in a never-seen-before fury, his jaw clenched in a vengeful fierceness, and his face radiating with intimidating intensity, is raging across the Capital, after turning into a nationwide phenomenon over the last couple of years.
The image was born three years back, when Karan Acharya, a graphic artist from Kudlu village in Kerala’s Kasaragod district, came up with a vector graphic for Ganesh Chaturthi. “We’d use Om every year for the flag during the Ganesh Utsav, but my friends from the youth club wanted something different that year,” Acharya recalls.
“My friends instructed me ki smile mat dena, attitude dena. And if I added more strokes, it would’ve become too aggressive. They needed it urgently, so in a rush I sent it on WhatsApp, without watermarking it. I thought, ‘Mere friends hi hain, so they will not misuse it’. [So] it initially spread through WhatsApp DPs and Facebook,” he recalls how the figure came about.
“Later, people in my village started using it on vehicles. And people would send me photos of cabs, asking ‘Yeh tumhara artwork hai, right?’” he continues, adding that the real surprise was when it reached as far as Bengaluru, even though people didn’t know who the artist was. “Gradually, I came to be known as ‘Hanumanji ka artist’,” Acharya recalls fondly. The soaring popularity of the image has also flooded him with work. “After the Hanuman image, bahut kaam mil raha hai. Getting film offers for animation, too,” he adds with a smile.
But of late, there has been a growing contention from various factions that the image shows Hanuman, a god depicted otherwise as the epitome of humility, and unflinching in his devotion to Lord Rama in the Ramayana, as angry and wrathful. But the 28-year-old disagrees. “My Hanuman is not angry, he’s just attitude Hanuman,” he asserts.
Bring up an incident where a woman refused to ride a cab because it had a vinyl of Acharya’s Hanuman on its rear glass, and he says, “I have nothing to say to those people, it’s their perspective. I feel this is just a piece of art. Some people say, ‘I will not ride a cab which carries the sticker’, while some say, ‘I’ll pay extra if the cab carries this sticker’. I don’t know why people react this way,” he laughs, choosing to look at the positive side.
Acharya, who looks up to pioneering Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, grew up on tales from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which explains his inclination towards doing mythological characters. The Bengaluru-based artist is currently working on a futuristic comic book set several thousand years in the future and featuring attitude Hanuman. He shares that the image will be copyrighted soon. “Small shops selling it is not a problem, but [problem arises] when people start using it for commercial purposes. A Kannada film used the image on their poster. They didn’t even seek my permission for it,” he says.
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